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Meet Noa Eappen And Kasha Sachdev, India’s Teen Gold Medalist Powerlifters

Noa Eappen and Kasha Sachdev share their inspiration behind powerlifting, training schedules and challenges, how they care for their mental health, and what keeps them going as growing athletes. 

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Meet Noa Eappen And Kasha Sachdev, India’s Teen Gold Medalist Powerlifters
13-year-old Noa Eappen and 15-year-old Kasha Sachdev do not just share winning titles at PRO League World Championship 2023 but also share a training schedule together. It was only right to talk to the teen duo together and look back at their astounding sporting journeys.
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In a recent PRO League Asia And World Championship 2023 held in Bengaluru, India, the duo proved how female domination in powerlifting is paving the way forward. While Eappen won gold and set world records in all five categories (Squat, Bench, Deadlift, Push Pull and Full Powerlifting) under Teen 1, Female and Under 60kgs, Sachdev won gold in all categories, setting world records in two categories (Squat and Full Powerlifting) under Teen 1, Female, and Under 75kgs.

In an interview with SheThePeople, Noa Eappen and Kasha Sachdev share their inspiration behind powerlifting, training schedules and challenges, how they care for their mental health, and what keeps them going as growing athletes.

Noa Eappen and Kasha Sachdev Interview

What got you interested in powerlifting?

NE: I started powerlifting at age 10, when my fitness enthusiast mom, Arshiya Fakih, dragged me to the gym. There I met my schoolmate Kasha Nia Sachdev, who was then 12, and her dad, Nicholai Sachdev, who were both powerlifters. I was truly inspired, intrigued and impressed by what they did. Nicholai saw my interest and soon took me under his wing. Within a short span of time, he realised I was stronger than most girls my age and decided to make me compete. There has been no turning back since then.

KS: Well, I started training in the gym about eight years ago, mostly in order to exercise post-corrective surgery to treat my condition of knock-knees. Despite being a happy and well-adjusted child, I was rather conscious of my condition as well as my weight and lacked confidence in myself and what I could and couldn't do. After my surgery, I had begun working out at the gym as part of my rehabilitation and physiotherapy under my dad's eye, a powerlifter himself, Nicholai Sachdev; this transitioned into powerlifting once I showed immense interest in the sport, and since, I've revelled in lifting.

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What were the initial challenges when you started training and what are the challenges you face now?

NE: Honestly, powerlifting came quite naturally to me. I started Powerlifting just before the pandemic, so at that, I had a lot of free time. I currently struggle with managing my studies, training and finding time for myself. Powerlifting is also a male-dominated sport, so sometimes boys tend to pass snide comments. I try to take it with a pinch of salt.

KS: Initially, I used to struggle with balancing social activities with training, which used to take up lots of time and energy even back then, and the feeling of "missing out" was very prevalent as a sociable, extroverted eight-year-old. However, I overcame this by keeping a better balance and slowly understanding how to prioritise what was important to me. I still face this, but on a different scale; I am a ninth grader preparing for the IGCSE examination, and my grades feel an impending imperative to my future, so keeping a fine balance of school work and training twice a day is tough, to say the least. To be perfectly candid, I struggle on and off with this, but I strive to do my best nonetheless.

Congratulations on your medals. How was the experience at the PRO League World Championship?

NE: Thank you! The Championship was really exciting because I won Gold in all 5 categories, and set World records in all 5 of them. Also, I was competing after two years, which made me nervous but thrilled because it was something I was looking forward to for a long time. The PRO League World Championship had many participants, and was well-organised, which made lifting challenging but more fun.

KS: My experience was absolutely exhilarating. I have competed a fair number of times prior to this, but nothing could compare to the sheer strength and passion reverberating in the room. I feel privileged to have lifted amongst such incredible powerlifters, and to have been cheered on by them to not only win golds but to challenge my limits.

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Powerlifting was a sport that was, for a major part, male-dominated. Things have changed and we’re getting to see more women in it. How has your experience been seeing more young girls get a platform?

NE: It’s fantastic to see more women participate in a male-dominated sport, as it shows a shift in thought and perspective.

What we have right now, isn’t sufficient. A lot more women need to come and participate. They need to realise how strong they are, especially mentally because that’s a big aspect of being able to push beyond what you think is possible.

KS: It's been an absolute thrill to see young women lifting, I feel so thankful to grow up in a world that's slowly yet steadily progressing, now giving previously dismissed opportunities to those who aspire to gain them, especially being a young woman who has benefitted from this long-lived (and yet ongoing) movement for equal rights and chances.

In a world where you may be told that your place is the sidelines or the footnotes, you have the chance to take things into your hands and push hard at this impassioned sport, and make a change in your own life and perhaps even another young woman’s.

How integral has your family’s support been in this journey?

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NE: I started powerlifting when I was ten, so family support has been an integral part of my journey. I’m thirteen now. My family and I are still exploring and understanding my sports career. I initially had resistance from my grandparents, as they were concerned about how the sport would affect my growth, but with time they realised how much it was benefiting me, and gradually came on board. My parents are hundred percent supportive of it. My mom manages everything outside of training from balancing my school and exercise regime, to my nutrition.

KS: My family has always been the backbone of my success. My dad brought me into the gym after doing copious amounts of research on the same and took hours out of his time to carefully train me, and with progressive overload and consistent training, I got stronger and my love for powerlifting grew. He faced backlash from multiple crowds but stayed confident in his wise decision, backed invariably by my mother, Kavita Sachdev, who has kept up with my multifarious diets and health regimes. Since then, my father has woken up at unearthly hours in the morning to train me, flown and driven me out to workshops and been perpetually by my side in every way. They both are the reason I am here right now, and I will be forever grateful.

What is your training routine like?

NE: I train four days a week for 3-4 hours a day. On the days that I don’t train, I do cardio for an hour. Only once a week do I manage to get a complete rest day. We train for powerlifting, so we do the three main compound movements- the bench, the squat and the deadlift. We also work on body-building accessory movements, such as tricep extensions, and lat pull-downs, to strengthen the main compound movements in which we compete.

KS: My daily fitness regime consists mostly of an hour or so of cardio, which I like to do as a brisk, inclined walk on the treadmill or some outdoors jogging, and spend around three hours powerlifting; this comprises a warm-up and cooldown, muscle-group specific hypertrophy, and all three central powerlifting movements, the squat, the deadlift, and the bench press. I usually do cardio every day, whilst training five to six times a week, to stay agile and allow my body to recover.

From when you started to now, which factors have impacted your growth most as an athlete?

NE: There are several factors that have impacted my growth as an athlete, but some of the most important ones are perseverance, my coach, family, good sleep habits and self-belief.

KS: Over the course of nearly eight years, the factor most impacting my growth as an athlete has probably been my acceptance of failure. This is especially vital in powerlifting as failing my top lifts when trying to set personal records has always been very draining, physically and emotionally; this might be due to my very personal, emotional connection to my lifts, to the point where I feel the necessity to always win, win, win.

Over the course of nearly eight years, the factor most impacting my growth as an athlete has probably been my acceptance of failure. Developing an attitude of improving rather than wallowing in my loss has been helpful in cultivating a more positive mindset in the gym because, at the end of the day, I have to put my body and my peace of mind first and allow myself to do what I love without the restriction of failure.

Sports also come with a lot of challenges with respect to mental health. How do you deal with this?

NE: The main challenge I face with is juggling school, training and finding some downtime for myself. In order to stay in my weight category, I follow a strict nutritional program. That has definitely been a challenge to adjust to.

Mentally, I feel strong. I do not get intimidated by the weight of the bar or by others around me.

KS: In my opinion, it's rather the contrary. ">My sport has helped me overcome a myriad of mental health obstacles I've faced over the past few years, not only distracting me from my problems (no matter how large), but allowing me to acknowledge them and yet see past them, and lift with a clear head. despite common saying, I find powerlifting rather calming, therapeutic almost, and doesn't often result in challenges in accordance with my mental health.

What would you advise aspiring powerlifters?

NE: Don’t let conventional thought or self-doubt stop you from pursuing what you want. If you believe you can do it, you can.

KS: I would advise aspiring powerlifters to just keep pushing. Push the floor down when you deadlift, push away the negativity in your life and anyone who challenges your ability to thrive, push your boundaries and most importantly, push yourself to lift, consistently and religiously. you have to believe that you can do this because if you don't, no one will. Just push a little bit more, and you’ll surpass excellence.


Suggested reading: How Kayaker Naina Adhikari Paddled Her Way To Represent India On Global Waters

Powerlifting Kasha Sachdev World Powerlifting Championship Noa Eappen
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